August 6, 2015
My family of seven and I left for Scandinavian vacation to introduce our children to the places of our ancestral heritage: Finland for my father’s side, Sweden for my mother’s side, and Norway for my mother-in-law’s side. It was our first trip with Sonja, our new daughter-in-law, who enthusiastically shared her previous Norway experience and heritage with us. Spending several days in Iceland on both the outbound and return trips was a bonus.
The trip also marked the beginning of my explorations for the Graduate Preaching Fellowship (GPF). In each country, I began contacting several of the country’s first female Lutheran bishops, pastors and theologians, with varying success.
August 22, 2015
Starting in Finland felt right—but how do we start? Our niece, Sarah Browne, joined the family in Helsinki to participate in the fellowship. But first, the kids taught Sarah and me a new game called “Bonanza.” It is a silly game of bean trading and counting. Our laughter, banter, and color-coded cards attracted the interest of a man passing through the hotel lobby who asked us what game we were playing. Thanks to Dave and Sonja, our family plays a lot of games together. (Who knew rock-paper-scissors could be so intense.)
August 23, 2015
The family portion of the trip ended in Helsinki. It was an early Sunday morning, Matt’s 19th birthday, when I sent the six of them off on a 4:30 a.m. airport shuttle. “Mom, don’t rush home – I like having the car to myself,” said Sophie, 16.
Emotions built with each hug. By the sixth hug and kiss, I was a mess. Eyes blurred with tears I stood on the sidewalk, waving. Behind me, the hotel security door had shut and locked, unbeknownst to me. In my robe, I turned back to the hotel, sensing the cool air for the first time. Stunned, eyes cleared, I knocked frantically, summoning the front desk clerk after a few minutes.
And so, the GPF began on this Sunday morning.
Several hours later, Sarah and I attended Sunday worship at the iconic Helsinki Cathedral. This beautiful white Russian design with the light blue domes is located in the keskusta, the center of the city near the harbor. Coffee hour in the lower level Crypt yielded a connection with two women who led worship that morning: Anne, a seminary student and Tiina, an ordained Lutheran pastor. They would become our first interviews, conducted at the offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
A pastor for 19 years, Pastor Tiina Silvo, shared her call story, along with the joys and challenges of ministry. Here, she shares how the gospel message is central to her life.